Earlier this year, I found myself battling through my first wave of depression—high functioning depression to be exact. But before I go too far, let me say that this is not a story about me or my depression. It's about blues, it is about dance, it is about music and it is about what all of those did for me.
For me and like many people, hobbies—whether they be athletic or otherwise—is a form of release and expression for many of life’s wonderfully stressful phases, events and troubles. Early on, that came in the form of long-distance running, which in turn led me to run in college, which in turn, for the sake of my knees, led me to cycling.
From a mental health standpoint, my early adulthood went on without almost a hitch (aside from the typical parent-child argument and inevitable teen angst), however, with my adult life fully expanded before me, I realized I was quick to push my physical body, but would almost always place my mental body on the back burner.
Put lightly, depression is hard. And until you live it, I’m not sure I could ever accurately describe to you how it feels. I don’t think anyone can.
What puts the cherry on the cake, however, is that in cases of high-functioning depression you can lead an almost entirely “normal” life.
Go to work.
Go ride your bike…well sometimes.
Do your chores…well mostly.
Go to bed.
Because of this, I became determined to convince myself I wasn’t actually living this nightmare.
I was just having a bad day I would tell myself, but then that bad day turned into a bad week, and then that bad week turned into a bad month…and I imagine you can tell where this is going.
So not only was I trying to mend my wounds, I was also trying to convince myself they didn’t even exist.
So where exactly does this fit into blues and dance?
Well, it doesn't really.
To be honest, I never considered myself a dancer. I was a competitive runner and cyclist taught to remain ridged and focused on the task at hand—the complete opposite of blues dancing. However, one night (with the help of my roommate, a very accomplished blues dancer among many other disciplines) I found myself in the middle of a dance floor one Thursday night in downtown Boone.
I was in over my head, and because of that, I was completely out of my head.
Out of the worries, the thoughts and forgetting I was inexplicably exhausted (a widely-common symptom of depression).
My inner curiosity that had been shoved aside to make way for the monster that seemingly occupied all of my brain space squeezed its way to the front.
Even though the playlist was a mixture of both traditional blues and modern tracks, I found myself becoming undeniably interested in learning even the basics.
Hold you arms like this with your partner.
Bend your knees a little.
And move with the music.
I felt wonderful, but I’m also not entirely certain I would watch it on video, if it existed.
At home, I found myself dancing to my music, practicing the basic steps until I could complete almost any task while dancing and not even thinking about it.
Blues, though it has “rights” and “wrongs” largely still holds elements of interpretation. Move how you want, when you want, as fast or slow as you want.
Because of this, I found it easy to dance with anyone and everyone. In the dance communities’ eyes, there was no right or wrong way to do it. Just as long as you were dancing and trying, you were doing something right.
It was exactly what I needed in that time in my life.
In a world were you feel like everything is an uphill battle useless for improvement, just trying was the medicine I needed. It was a hand up in the hole I found myself in one fall morning in late 2016.
I am happy to say I am beyond that stage, but as many of us know who suffer from it, the once large, encompassing monster is not fully gone—only hiding in the closest ready to emerge at any time.
But should it every emerge again, I’ll welcome and acknowledge it’s presence, and perhaps even dance with it.
Dance Hall Thursday starts at 8'o clock every week, no anything required. Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wanna know more or are a blues musician looking for a very enthusiastic audience.